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For Your Weekend: Relentless Pursuit of Understanding It All

Laura Phelps
May 18, 2024

Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read John 20:1923

I’ve noticed a pattern in my relationship with the Lord that goes like this: I pray for something very specific and then watch that very thing blow up in my face. This took me out at the knees for quite some time until I realized something peculiar yet consistent about how God answers my prayers: It always gets worse before it gets better.

When the Lord’s mighty hand moves, look out! He is like the Joanna Gaines of our prayers. He hears our desires, smiles sweetly at the plans, and then starts the demolition. He tears down drywall and removes the frame, exposing mold, water damage, and every other hidden disaster we wish we never knew about. The truth of the matter is that there’s no restoration without renovation. The same goes for the spiritual life. Pray big with Jesus, then wait for the wrecking ball.

Jesus’ disciples know what I am talking about. Moments before Jesus was arrested, things were good. He was teaching them everything: breaking bread with them, washing their feet, praying for them. He was the Messiah they had been waiting for. And then, the wrecking ball. Jesus is not only arrested, interrogated, scourged, beaten, mocked, humiliated, and crucified, but his friends deny him and flee the scene of the crime. On the third day, after Mary Magdalene announced that she had seen the risen Lord, we find our not-so-convinced friends gathered together in fear. According to Scripture, they were afraid of the Jews; after all, if the religious leaders hated Jesus to the point of death, what would keep them from killing his students? The future looked bleak, and they hid behind closed doors.

Isn’t it amazing how quickly fear makes us forget? How, in an instant, it robs us of hope. How easy is it to believe that things are too messy, broken, complicated, impossible, and far gone for Jesus to reach, despite the past healings we have received or miracles we’ve witnessed. Instead of choosing to see what is happening as the hand of the Lord moving, we panic and shut the door on Him. This happened to me just the other day. No sooner did the Lord give me a glimpse of His power at work than I spun into an abyss of despair. Blind to things that were an improvement, I focused on what remained wrong, planting myself in the worst-case scenario, utterly convinced that the opposite of my prayer was unfolding. And just as I was about to slam the door in God’s face, I remembered: things always get worse before they get better. This was not about God ignoring my prayer. This was God making it happen. 

Take our disciples on the evening of that day, the first day of the week (John 20:19). It was as bad as bad can get. They believed Jesus was dead, which meant every future promise and hope died along with Him. As far as they could see, it was back to their old lives until Jesus came and stood among them. And not just any Jesus—but wounded for our sins Jesus. Holes in His hands and side Jesus. The fully human and fully divine Jesus, who loves us so much He was willing to be nailed to the cross and emptied of all of his blood because He knew that for us to get better, things had to get worse. 

I don’t fully understand why it must be this way, and to be honest, maintaining trust when everything appears to be going terribly wrong is a challenge. Perhaps it’s so that when things do turn around, we get a glimpse of God’s incredible power. Or maybe it’s so that we come to love Jesus not solely for what He gives but simply for who He is. Or, as Lisa Brenninkmeyer has written, What if the very circumstances we so desperately want to change are seeds of truly significant things that God is weaving together in His overall plan?”[1] I am not sure. But what has comforted me are words found in the Walking with Purpose Bible study Grounded in Hope: “Our human nature guarantees that we will never be able to make sense of all circumstances that intersect our lives” which means, “we can rest from the relentless pursuit of understanding it all.”[2]

When things appear to be worse, despite years and tears, I encourage you to remember what the disciples forgot that first Easter evening: Jesus is God, the Creator of creation. He multiplies fishes and loaves and cisterns of wine. He walks on water. He heals the sick. He drives out demons. He becomes a baby and bread. He walks through closed doors. He raises people and Himself from the dead. He is never, for a single moment, not in control. He is working, even when—especially when—you are convinced He is not. Like Joanna Gaines, He just needs to knock down a few walls and tear everything down before He can start rebuilding. And when He finally makes that big reveal, you can guarantee it will be better than you hoped for and imagined.

With you in the renovation,

Food for thought or journaling…

What in your life feels like a demolition gone out of control?
What is the Lord tearing down that has you feeling torn apart?
What situation or loved one feels too far for the Lord to reach?
In what present circumstance does it appear the doors have been shut?

Jesus, my Lord, my Savior, my wrecking ball, I praise You for Your faithfulness and thank You for answering every one of my prayers even when it looks like You’ve set everything and everyone I love on fire. When I can’t see evidence of You at work, remind me that the most beautiful renovations require the greatest demolitions. Release me from the relentless pursuit of understanding, and increase my trust in Your overall plan. Amen.

P.S. If you’d like to join me in letting go of the relentless pursuit of understanding, I highly encourage you to grab a copy of Grounded in Hope. 

[1] Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Grounded in Hope (Walking with Purpose, 2019), 114.
[2] Ibid, 115.

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